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How to Tackle an Activity Hangover When You Have RA

Last updated: September 2022

Does this sound familiar? You wake up one morning with an unusual and random spurt of energy. It's still not very much energy, of course, and definitely not a long spurt, but it's more than normal.

Taking advantage of an energy spurt

You know that random spurts like this don't come very often so you do what any person with a chronic illness would do: you try to accomplish everything you can with the day and energy. All the errands you have been putting off, all the household chores, all the friends you've been meaning to respond to, etc.

You might even exercise for the first time or use the spout of energy to even try that new recipe you've been neglecting to try. Whatever the case may be, at the end of the day, you feel accomplished and you wish that this energy spurt would just continue.

Symptoms of an RA "activity hangover"

Until you wake up the next morning.

At least in my experience, this is what happens that next morning: my head is in a fog; my body is aching, and my joints are on fire. It just feels like all you want to do is stay in bed and not do anything.

And then you realize: you're having an activity hangover from the previous day.

3 tips for fatigue recovery

You probably know the feeling, but what can you do about it? I can only tell you my personal experience and what I've done to alleviate the feelings of an activity hangover.

  1. Rest! Yes, you probably have other things to do the day of your activity hangover, but you need to slow down and reprioritize so that you don't get even more exhausted the next day (which then continues the cycle of activity hangovers). I find that this is especially hard for me to do because I'm always someone who wants to be productive and do everything that I need to do (and more) on a given day.
  2. Eat small portions/healthy things. I've noticed that one of the best things that can help with an activity hangover (and just with life in general) is eating a bunch of fruits and vegetables and avoiding junk foods (including some of my personal favorites: ice cream, cookies, candy, chips, etc.). I find myself feeling worse after eating a bunch of junk food when I have an activity hangover. I also make sure to have some peppermint tea (which helps calm me and my stomach).
  3. Exercise. Ironically. I know that I just said that you should rest, and this is true. But sometimes, I find that going for a low-paced, 15-30 minute walk really helps clear the brain fog that comes along with an activity hangover. It also feels good to get your body moving and in action, so I think that's another part of why exercise is important for an activity hangover. It's important, though, to not overdo it (as in, don't over-exercise or you'll just end up repeated the cycle of activity fatigue again).

Your RA activity fatigue may look different

Activity hangovers are unique to having a chronic illness like rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They might not occur exactly as I have described.

Sometimes, they can pop up the next day even after just doing your normal routine (or if you had to do an extra/unexpected errand), or after doing something more strenuous (like taking a trip, extra hours at work, etc).

Nevertheless, what are some of the ways that you deal with an activity hangover?

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